Perhaps it was nerves or a brief mental lapse, but Gary Johnson just had, as he called it, another “Aleppo moment.”
Earlier this month, the Libertarian candidate for US president caught flak for responding ”what is Aleppo?” when asked by an interviewer what he would do about the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Syrian city. His latest lapse came last night (Sept. 28), when he could not name a single foreign leader during a town hall-style interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
“Who’s your favorite foreign leader?” Matthews asked Johnson, who appeared to be having an out of body experience.
“Mine was Shimon Peres,” Johnson’s running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, quickly chimed in, referring to the late president of Israel.
But Matthews dismissed the response. “I’m talking about living,” he said, before turning back to Johnson (rather generously, in these times of “gotcha” journalism). ”You gotta do this,” Matthews pushed. “Anywhere. Any continent: Canada, Mexico, Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect.”
“I’m having an Aleppo moment in the former president of Mexico,” replied Johnson. He was apparently thinking of Vicente Fox, who has been openly critical of Republican Donald Trump‘s bid for the presidency.
“But I’m giving you the whole world!” Matthews protested. “Anybody in the world you like. Anybody! Pick any leader!”
After a painful 10 seconds of back and forth, which felt even longer, Weld jogged Johnson’s memory by providing Vicente Fox’s name. ”Fox!” Johnson responded, at last. “He was terrific.”
Matthews moved on, posing the question to Weld, who named German chancellor Angela Merkel. ”Okay, fine,” Matthews said. “Can’t argue with that.”
Johnson’s first ”Aleppo moment” raised serious questions about whether Johnson could be a viable alternative to Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, when he seemingly lacks basic knowledge of international affairs. And it stoked the anger of those who worry that third-party candidates could serve as spoilers for one candidate or the other in a close election.
This week’s interview has done little to alleviate those concerns. “Johnson is the emergent smh [shake my head] candidate,” quipped one Twitter user.